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October 31, 2005


Me for agonizing over this all day! No seriously, thanks for the great recap.

We need to call the DNC tomorrow and demand that someone in their office take control of the message. This was inexcusable. Hunter over at Daily Kos is also angry over Tweety's characterization of the memo.

We can and should be angry about how the press reacts to stuff like this, but in a sense it's like getting angry at your dog for eatiing the pot roast you put on the garage floor. You have to prevent screw ups like this, because it's easily exploitable into a "story" or a "controversy." People can argue about whether the press would be as likely to jump on the GOP if the situation were reversed; maybe hey wouldn't, and maybe the deck is stacked against us. But it is what it is, and you can't complain too much about the media environment we operate in if it distracts you from attending to the details and making sound decisions. And in this case, I think people didn't attend to details, and they didn't make sound decisions. Maybe it's unfair, and if so that sucks, but it is what it is.

Research director resigned two months ago. No one is minding the store.

BTW, Susan, good for you for calling the DNC when you smelled the same fishy odor I did when I heard about this. We were both correct that Mathews was full of it, it's just the circumstances were a little different than what we first speculated on.

According to this, Adler was the research director as of September 2nd. What probably happened was Gehrke left and was replaced by Adler in early September, and there was maybe a few days overlap between announcements.

Democrats who act like incompetent Republicans are the boneheads of the day. You don't replace the Incompetents by being incompetent yourself. Ask Susan what's-her-name...er, Estrich.

Sorry to sound so crabby. Thanks to everyone for keeping tabs on this. A mitigating factor for the DNC is that Tweety is a jackass, spinning his own 'realtime history' with that inimitable eastern seaboard 'crackerbarrell' self-importance of his. Hard to predict that sort of thing.

Is there any way we can point out that it was Matthews' linking a Mafia-related prosecution and an Italian-American judge that was the moment when the race-based connection was made?

If I were Dean, I would post the document on the DNC website and then point out how Matthews and the RNC hacks were mischaracterizing it.

Jeez. Dean has never been good on defense. I have met the bonehead and it is us, if we let this non-story grow. The research that was done had to be done and we are all indebted to the bloggers who figured out whether this was for real. But now that we know the story -- let it die. The only think for anyone to say about it is, "if you think we oppose Alito because he's Italian you have never met the Democratic party. We oppose Alito because he's against women's rights, he's against minority rights, he's against the civil rights of every person - Italians too! - in this country."

The only story here is Alito's record. If we get off that we have only ourselves to blame (or call bonehead as the case may be).

Um, DHinMI, somehow you left out the lead on the DNC memo:

Samuel Alito is a judge on U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Appointed to this position by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Alito is often referred to as “Judge Scalito” because of his adherence to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s right-wing judicial philosophy. While serving as a U.S. Attorney, Alito failed to obtain a key conviction, releasing nearly two dozen mobsters back into society. Based on his Third Circuit opinions, Alito has established himself as a potential foe to immigrants, reproductive rights, and civil liberties.

Doesn't it strike you as a little odd that the memo's very first substantive point about a judge who's been on the bench for 15 years is an 18-year-old mob case he prosecuted in his previous job? Or how about that Willie Hortonish "released back into society" riff? Or the fact that the document has no attribution on it whatsoever? None of this strikes you as a little, well, slimy?

I personally have nothing against slime if it's well done -- we're in a war here and the Rovians have already made it clear that they don't respect the Geneva Conventions. But if the DNC really wants spread the rumor that Alito is soft on the Mafia, there are hell of lot more intelligent ways of getting the job done.

My vote is for whoever sent it out as a Word document. Not just for not scrubbing it (note to anyone who has to review resumes sent as Word documents--you can learn a lot from loooking at the deletions/changes!--also a warning to people sending such e-resumes--watch out!), but for using the Word doc fomat at all. Standard DNC policy should be PDF format for anything going out to anyone. PDF allows things like password-protection, embedding fonts, etc. Plus PDF is an open format, unlike the proprietary Word (DOC) format.

As for the substantive point about Alito's not being an effective prosecutor (at least in this one major case), that's the point that should have been made. I'd say the major flaw in the memo is that it does not clearly spell out why this failure in Alito's record is being mentioned. Stating that it "embarassed" the government is not enough. It sounds like Alito's comment about in the future cases will be kept "as short and simple as possible" is a response to criticism of his handling of the case. So what was that criticism? If find it bizarre that the DNC memo would not spell that out! As a result, a fraud like CM can read whatever he wants into the memo.

I'll add that this minor brouhaha shows something that I have been thinking about since the aftermath of the election (2004). I'm in no position to rehash all of the problems of that campaign, but to me the single most disturbing aspect of it was our (Democrats') inability to respond effectively to just this sort of thing.

My impression was that the campaign placed far too much faith in the news media to get the *story* out. The problem was that even the objective news media tends to do one or two stories on a hot topic and then move on. Maybe they'll do an editorial as well, but then they'll consider it covered. New information that comes out that might significantly affect public opinion does not see the light of day because it doesn't change the basic conclusions of the original coverage.

Watchdog sites like Media Matters and the one based at Penn (name escapes me now, but Cheney made it famous in the VP debate when he misstated its name) tend to have the same attitude--one they've covered a story, they consider the research complete and are not generally willing to update it unless there is some sensational revelation--as in the news media, an accretion of bits of evidence gets no attention. Blogs are great, but they are fractured into a series of posts. Wikis are somewhat better, but it takes a lot of dedication, time, and effort to maintain a Wiki page and defend it from malicious efforts to revise it.

The DNC, or some Democratic Party organization that currently doesn't exist, needs to function as a news media outlet, but not entirely in the traditional manner. They need to run a news organization of their own, with researchers acting like journalists, where stories are constantly updated/edited to strengthen and expand on the arguments and information in them. I'm not talking about the lame "rapid response" paradigm that was used in the 2004 campaign. Instead, I'm talking about following up on the rapid response with an ongoing response that can absorb and respond to a series of related attacks in a cohesive way, instead of the fractured, "let's hold another conference call with the press," approach which then doesn't get reported on.

And then there's television. How much would it cost to set up a DNC channel on the internet, with podcasts and such? Yes, it would basically be propaganda. But it wouldn't be false--it would be sourced, it would offer journalistic proof. Sort of like 60 minutes stories. Errors would be corrected in the articles and segments themselves (yes, there would have to be a page available that tracked corrections in a given story, but it could also track new information that was added). The DNC as a news source you can trust!

It's all in the follow through. Follow through. Follow through!

You may be interested in my speculation that the Committee for Justice is behind this smeer.


Hang on a second. "Not for attribution" does not mean that the source is supposed to be some huge, national security-type secret. Dan Bartlett and other WH officials give "not for attribution" briefings in front of dozens of reporters every day. Everyone present knows who is making the statement. It's just that the ground rules don't allow for attribution of the comments to a specific individual, because they want it to be the "White House message," not "Dan Bartlett's message."

If the Democrats were denying that they authored the document then I would stand corrected, but I don't believe that's the case.

As for the paragraph that Billmon highlights, it seems to me that it's simply written as a summary of the various points to follow. You know, the way some people learned to write an opening paragraph in 8th grade composition. Whether it was truly a clumsy attempt at a Mafia smear, or whether it was simply designed to highlight Alito's biggest loss as a prosecutor, I have no idea.

What strikes me as funny is that the wingnuts expressing faux outrage over this are the same "South Park Conservatives" who sneer at political correctness except when it suits their ends. Do you think these people care about the "racism" when Italian-American groups are offended by mobster movies?

The modern GOP plays the race card every chance it gets and I don't think it's worth the trouble of trying to avoid it.

Best line I've read today: "...but in a sense it's like getting angry at your dog for eatiing the pot roast you put on the garage floor."

The meta data contains a creation date of 7/7/2005 by AdlerD
and modification date of 7/8/2005 by PrendergastC

Is that when O'Connor announced her retirement?

Why do I find myself wishing that George Mitchell were still young enough to run for president? I won't watch Chris Matthews anymore, but I am pretty disappointed in the DNC, too. Knowing how important it is to get things right, how could they have gotten it so wrong?

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